News out of Reserve has been relatively quiet since the hiring of the company's new COO last fall. But they're now doubling down on efforts to reach diners across many platforms, and this deal is no exception.
— Kristen Hawley
Reservations provider Reserve has struck a deal to be the exclusive provider of restaurant reservations on Expedia.com in the United States beginning in May. Reserve works with 1,000 U.S. restaurants in all 50 states. Only restaurants on Reserve’s network will be available for booking on Expedia.
Reservations providers are battling for a bigger slice of the booking pie and reservations are no longer an afterthought for travelers. Instead, the opposite: many travelers book trips around dining at notable and hard-to-book restaurants. According to Skift’s recently released Affluent Traveler Survey, 19 percent of travelers (and 22 percent of travelers without children) prefer an urban culture and food trip when vacationing. Additionally, the survey found that “excellent food and beverage on property” is the third most important aspect of a hotel, according to respondents.
“One of the themes we talk about so much in our business is, how do we put our restaurant partners first? How do we make sure we are meeting their customers where they are? This is another great example of that for us,” Reserve CEO Greg Hong told Skift Table. “We’re so excited about being able to work with [Expedia] and for the opportunity to bring so many people they have on their platform into the Reserve network and into our partner restaurants.”
“We’re excited to work with Reserve to add restaurant discovery and reservation services to Expedia’s activities and attractions platform,” Jen O’Twomney, vice president, Expedia Local Expert said in a statement. “Dining out is an integral part of the travel experience, so this is a natural addition and one we believe travelers will really value.”
Reserve’s technology will enable restaurant discovery and reservation services directly on Expedia’s activities and attractions platform — guests will not be redirected to Reserve in the process. As on Reserve, guests will see real-time availability for their selected day, time, and party size at the restaurant they’re looking to book.
Restaurants won’t incur any additional costs associated with the partnership. Reserve charges restaurants a monthly flat fee of $249 per month, covering reservations and table management services. Reserve plans to make some product additions soon, including point-of-sale integration, that could see some restaurants paying more for additional functionality. A Reserve spokesperson also noted Reserve does not charge cover fees, a pricing structure pioneered by reservations provider OpenTable, which charges restaurants a dollar per diner seated in addition to monthly subscription fees.
Reserve declined to comment on any potential investment from Expedia, though historically these types of deals come with some level of support. In early 2017, Airbnb led a $13 million investment in Reserve competitor Resy. Then, in September, Airbnb announced it was integrating Resy into its platform, allowing Airbnb users to book reservations at Resy partner restaurants directly within the app.
Expedia’s tie up with Reserve follows years of partnerships and acquisitions by other online travel agencies and travel brands. Booking Holdings acquired OpenTable in 2014 for $2.6 billion, and both TripAdvisor and China’s Ctrip partner with OpenTable to offer reservations. TripAdvisor also owns reservations service La Fourchette, which it acquired in 2014. Most recently, Accor Hotels bought ResDiary, a Scotland-based reservations provider.
Until now, Expedia has been the lone major online travel company without a dining reservations stake. For Expedia, entering the restaurant reservations space with a U.S. partner makes sense. Last year, Expedia generated 55 percent of its revenue in the U.S. versus 45 percent abroad.
In the competitive space of restaurant reservations, footprint and growth are paramount to success. While Reserve and its competitors offer powerful software to restaurants, success in the market depends on size and power.
“Our plan is to continue to grow the Reserve brand,” said Michael Wesner, Reserve’s chief operating officer. “We’ve had a great deal of success in a number of the cities that we are in growing far faster than we would have even expected. Certainly the intent is to grow the business from a sheer footprint standpoint and this Expedia relationship is one means by which we’ll be able to do that.”